Summer Hours (12A)

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The Independent Culture

Summer Hours is the kind of film that could only have been made in France, not just because the houses are so enviable and the clothes so elegant, but because it's an uncompromising, grown-up drama in which educated, middle-class people consider a complex moral issue with barely a cross word, let alone a gun battle or a ravenous zombie. It flags towards the end, but for much of the time Olivier Assayas's film is so mature, humane and unshowy that you can almost forgive French cinema for Asterix at the Olympic Games.

Charles Berling, Juliette Binoche and Jérémie Renier star as three siblings who have to decide what to do with their rambling family home when their mother dies. Their great uncle was a well-known painter, so the question is whether they should honour him and their own heritage by keeping the estate together, or whether to sell off the house and its contents piecemeal. Berling believes they should preserve everything for their children, but Binoche and Renier both now live abroad and so for them the house, like France itself, belongs in the past. Partially funded by the Musée d'Orsay, Summer Hours debates the value of art and the purpose of museums, but it's also a touching universal story of loss, and a detailed portrait of a family that's close but not as close as it once used to be.

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